Trequanda Treasures and Curiosities

March 24, 2014 / Places
Trequanda, Tuscany

Incredible: treasures wherever you head in Italy, no matter how tiny, how “insignificant” the locale. This country is a treasure box, but I haven’t even lifted the lid.

Take Trequanda (pop. 1383). We’ve been there a couple times (Pino’s doing restoration in the area). It’s always quiet in the only village cafe’. This time, a client was snoring at his table in winter hibernation.

Trequanda bar dynamism

But the church across the piazza was open this time! Built in the mid-14th century – on site of a pre-existing church (in its turn, likely on the site of a sacred Roman temple site), the scacchiera (checkerboard) facade of travertine and volcanic tufo rock astounds for its intricacies.

Church checkerboard

Although dark inside, I could see the golden glow of a triptych over the altar. Drawing closer, clearly a Sienese school masterpiece. A woman near the altar proved to be a volunteer custodian who did far more than illuminate the church for me: Daniela shared rich lore about the church’s artistic treasures, even the “hidden ones.”

She described the townspeople’s joy when the splendid tryptych returned home: stolen in 1979, the early 15th century masterpiece by Giovanni di Paolo depicting the Madonna Enthroned with Saints, was found in Rome by the “Nucleo Tutela Patrimonio Artistico”, a branch of the Carabinieri, specialized in tracking down stolen art and archaeological treasures.

Altarpiece splendor

And that wasn’t the church’s only stolen object: “Look at the Cleveland cross”, Daniela exclaimed, pointing at a stunning 14th century enameled cross in a plexiglass case. The village priest always carried that cross in funeral processions to the local cemetery. In the mid-19th century, it was sent off to be restored – and disappeared. About thirty years ago, the Trequanda crucifix re-appeared in the Cleveland Museum of Art. After lengthy diplomatic maneuverings, the cross returned home.

Daniela shows the wonder
Cross - treasure

We went behind the altar into the sacristy to see precious reliquaries – and curiosities, including the body of Blessed Bonizella (13th c) and the precious robe she was wearing when her body was found miraculously. Daniela told me the story: on May 6, 1554, two city magistrates noted a swarm of bees buzzing out of a crevice in the church wall. Eager to find a mother lode of honey and beeswax, they removed the stone. To their astonishment, they found not honey but the incorrupt body of Bonizella and her child, the perfume of incense surrounding them. Bonizella was holding a chalice, made of beeswax. Every year bees swarm at the spot on May 6th.

Chalice with bees statue
Daniela with Beata's dress

Daniela showed me photos of the miraculous survivor of a motorcycle accident. When? May 6th, a few years ago. As the injured young man – from northern Italy – was being loaded into the ambulance, he murmured, “I see a woman in a white dress.” The astonished rescue workers told him, “Beata Bonizella saved you. Today’s her feast.”

Daniela shares miracle news

Each year, he returns to Trequanda on May 6th to join the locals in celebrating their Bonizella.

Beata Bonizella beloved of the town


Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

28 Responses to “Trequanda Treasures and Curiosities”

  1. Barbara Goldfield

    How interesting. I’m curious to know how such a tiny town had the wherewithal to build a marvelous church and commission such masterpieces…

  2. mary jane

    Stunning altarpiece, and the Renaissance cassapanca chest beneath it. Thank goodness for the Carabinieri who tracked down these treasures and returned them to the Church. This is the reason why nowadays so many small churches are locked up tight if there isnt a guardian. Thanks for the wonderful note, Anne.

  3. what a beautiful story. my birthday is May 6. I will now remember her each year of my birthday!

  4. What a delight to see this! For a number of years we stayed at the agriturismo Il Colle di Trequanda, the next hill up from Trequanda, and familiar with the Romanesque church there. On the south side of the church was a rectangular stone box capped with a thick heavy stone lid. On the wall above this thing was an avviso which stated: “E Un fonte Battesimale Del XIII-XIV Sec. NON Una Tavola Per Mettere Il Mangime Per I Gatti!” Tranlation: This is a Baptismal Font from the 13th-14th Century. NOT a table to put meals for the cats!” I loved it. and thought it more succinct and amusing than just saying “Keep Off!” Sorry it’s no longer there.
    Arden Fowler

  5. Bob Blesse

    Thanks, Anne, what interesting stories! We look forward to visiting this lovely church one of these days.

  6. Gull-Britt Lundström

    as allways interesting story.You really find people with story to tell,Nice fothos too

  7. Mary Cameron

    We had lunch across from this chiesa last May, after the festival. Had the best panna cotta and Chianina beef. I think the cafe was different from the one pictured here. Such serendipity up in the hills. We drove from Trequanda to a festival in Asciano.

  8. Marie Giacalone

    Your stories never fail to make me yearn to return to Italy. My birthday is May 6, but our trip will not be until October this year. Maybe next time we will have to plan our trip for May! Thanks for this wonderful story.

  9. Richard Brooks

    I very much enjoyed reading your posting on Trequanda as well as checking out the beautiful photos. Your passion for your adopted land comes through strong and clear and it is contagious. And from the perspective of a Houstonian, where history started in 1836, Umbria must feel like a living in a museum of countless treasures. My wife and I are looking forward to seeing you soon.

  10. Your stories are always interesting, Anne, and your photographs are wonderful.

  11. Janet Eidem

    So many stories! Thanks for continuing to share them with us Annie.

  12. Deborah Salae

    Anne, thanks again for a most interesting view of yet another tiny but fabulous (literally) corner of the Italy you love. Someone should make you the head of the Italian Tourism Bureau!

  13. Sandi Spector

    Your stories are always fascinating and captivating. We hope to get to see you this spring.

  14. My wife Arden published a book Italy My Beautiful Obsession. Everbody loves it.
    We hope the restaurant at Trequanda -Il Conte Matto with grat food and a beautiful view is still there.

  15. I love a gstorwrshdescribes with both words and photos facinating stories about of towns and the people or things in theInvite her into your home and listen to her speak of the importance of cooking for your families. Then pick up your cutting board and chopping knife and follow among as she teaches you and up to 16 of your guests

  16. Sarah Grimes

    Very interesting commentary and history on antiquities in this town.

  17. Angela Melczer

    Very interesting…sounds like quite a special place. How wonderful that they got their treasures back!

  18. Susan Pautler

    Take me to Trequanda!!! Fascinating stories of the town and the people who live there. Anne, you are such a colorful story teller.
    Also, Anne is a magnificent cook with recipes that she has fun sharing during her Cook Tour in the USA in February through April. She came to my house on March 20 to teach 15 very excited ladies all about Umbrian Cooking, that is to say, cooking of the peasant farmers of Italy. We had a wonderful time chopping, slicing, stirring, mixing, blending all the fresh ingredients from Anne’s grocery shopping list. The colorful vegetables were a feast to our eyes as well as our palates. Today, as I watched the snow fall once again in Ocean View, DE, I took out some of the Tuna Mushroom Pate and savored the brandy that went into this antipasti. Everyone enjoyed the fruits of their labor as we sat down to a relaxing evening of homemade recipes taking in one course at a time as they do in Italy. The enjoyable evening ended after much lively conversation and more stories from Anne’s life in Assisi, Italy. Contact Anne if you would like to have her cook at your house. You will experience an evening like no other.

  19. The Italians just might make a true believer out of me yet! I will need to look more closely into this Beata Bonizella! Grazie

  20. Well, I didn’t get very far in my search. Can you tell me why Bonizella was so revered that she was entombed in the church, with her child? What does her name mean?

  21. Suzanne and Jack

    Another great story and such pertinent photos to help the story ‘come alive’. You are a true Wordsmith Annie. I never cease to tire or to be amazed at the rich history of Italy.

  22. joan slous

    while I read Italian Notebook, I especially appreciate the articles written by Annie Robichaud. They are so informative and descriptive and take me back to my favorite european country, Italia.

  23. Marianna Raccuglia

    Hello Anne, You always give your readers such wonderful stories. This is so interesting and you manage to get the most information from the people around you. Thank you

  24. Anne, I always feel like I’m standing next to you looking at these beautiful objects as you describe them. Even though I’m from Cleveland, I’m glad the cross returned to it’s home.


Leave a Reply